Parrot Bebop

Launch into aerial imaging with the easy-to-fly Parrot Bebop.

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Perhaps you’re like me, and you spent the summer looking enviously at the drones everyone else got for Christmas, wondering what amazing things you’d capture if only you could take to the skies.

The Parrot Bebop is one to watch in the consumer drone wars—and with its simple flight controls, highly capable camera and durability, this is the drone I would recommend to first-time aerial photographers.

The first Parrot drone I ever used was more a toy than a serious photography and video tool. The Bebop has come a long way since then, and offers serious competition to the likes of the DJI Phantom.

Unlike the Phantom, the Bebop has an on-board 14-Megapixel camera with an f/2.2 fisheye lens. This means you don’t need to buy a separate action camera and gimbal to capture smooth video. The Bebop records 1080p video with a 180-degree angle field of view. Thanks to its three-axis internal sensor stabilisation and rubber pads that reduce shock to the main body of the drone, the Bebop’s video is incredibly smooth. Seriously, it’s like flying a Glidecam.

The camera also provides a live feed to your tablet (either Android or iPad), which you use to steer the Bebop with a free app. This is great for not only flying the drone safely, but for framing your photos. The downside is that the Wifi connection limits the distance you can fly the Bebop safely using a tablet to around 300 metres, and the flight time for each battery is somewhere between 8-15 minutes. Parrot gives you two batteries out of the box, which is a nice touch.

When combined with the Parrot Skycontroller (an optional extra), it really soars. The Skycontroller extends the range of the drone, and makes you feel like an actual pilot. It connects to both your tablet and the drone, and gives you an intuitive joystick-based control while keeping the live-view aspect of the tablet. An HDMI port lets you hook up a first-person view (FPV) goggle to make flying even more immersive.

I can attest to the Bebop’s durability because it managed to survive an entire weekend with me. While I’ve had experience flying other drones, I’m by no means a master pilot. The Bebop came out the winner in two encounters with palm trees, and handled a few emergency landings without faltering.

The one thing I don’t like is its built-in 8 GB of storage. While I never had any trouble finding room for my videos and photos (you can download both straight to your tablet if you need to free up room), I would love to see a version of the Bebop where you can insert a MicroSD card to expand its memory.

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